Archive for the ‘new words phrases and neologisms’ Category

timeless it

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Louise Brooks circa mid – 1920’s

Even when The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors Even – she remains beautiful, alluring, innocent, playful, determined, totally original, and timeless.

the “it” girls

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

In 1920 the 19th amendment was finally passed in the United States and women won the right to vote. And following right on the heels of that legislation, women forged an analogous and complimentary cultural movement in the heat of the roaring twenties popularly known as the “flappers”. Although the entomology of the term still remains vague, suffice it to say it’s meaning falls somewhere between being a young  woman (with low hanging hair flapping on their back), to any number of slang  phrases denoting “prostitute”. Or to put it another way would be, the unlikely union of innocence  and intrigue, or the combination of ingenue and femme fatale. The flapper name was eventually conjoined with another popular term of the twenties, “it”, or in this case “the it girl”. “It” was originally coined by English writer Elinor Glyn who described the effect as such;

In Glyn’s story, It, a character explains what “It” really is: “It…that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes… [e]ntirely unself-conscious…full of self-confidence… [i]ndifferent to the effect… [s]he is producing and uninfluenced by others.”

The notion of “IT” eventually became synonymous with flappers through its personification in popular silent films, culminating in the movie of the same name, “IT”, that featured Clara Bow as the “IT” girl. These were movies where the subject itself was self referential to the flapper movement itself or the new fangeld notion of “it” as a way to explain the appeal of the movement and the special quality of it’s headliners.  Clara Bow, along with Louise Brooks, and Colleen Moore became the pivotal film stars that helped popularize the flappers and the notion of it, as a sort of power potion, that laid out both the texture, attitudes, risks, and rewards of the movement itself. Interestingly enough, both Bow and Brooks not only played “it girls” but were actually  “it girls” in real life, having come from poverty ridden lower class backgrounds (Bow) or regular middle class backgrounds (Brooks & Moore), who somehow through their own personal tenacity, charisma, natural talent, and stunning good looks,  got themselves in front of the Hollywood cameras and wildly succeeded without the benefit of either education or training. These three women, through the new medium of film  laid out much of the aesthetics of the newly liberated woman, not so much through playing one in the movies, but by simultaneously being that new woman in real life as well.  Louise Brooks and Clara Bow, went well beyond a simple anti-establishment aesthetic of dress, choice of art preferences in music and dance, or sexual titillations, but went on to established notorious reputations within the film industry of being independent to the point of openly if not colorfully challenging the authority of the very studios that employed them. Clara Bow was especially troublesome with her “unpredictable” Brooklyn street language and mannerisms, and as a consequence, was never never invited to  elite Hollywood parties or social events, and according to some, wasn’t even invited to her own premiers. At any rate, both Bow and Brooks, in spite of their enormous natural talent and success were  eventually blackballed out of the movie business because of their no nonsense and confrontational posture toward the movie elites – both also found themselves living out the the remainders of their lives from whence they came, in relative obscurity, if not in poverty. Colleen Moore, on the other hand quit the flapper identity when scripted alongside Bow (in the Ultimate Flapper) and found herself wanting, married a producer and continued making films until retirement.

Some of the attitudes promoted by the “IT” phenomena beyond the utilization of sexual liberation, unselfconscious charisma, personal independence,  natural self confidence, and a decided anti-authoritarian attitude  were; an implicit internationalism in the adoption of European avant-garde clothing styles instead of American traditional ( flapper dress was distinctly French art nouveu), the first unabashed (and serious) embrace of African American cultural arts in both music – jazz being the preferred music, and the popularization of African American dance styles like the Charleston, the Black Bottom, and later the Lindy Hop, and finally, the blurring of sexual identity and the beginnings of acceptance of gay lifestyles into popular culture.

More than anything though, the “IT” quality pioneered by the above actresses soon became the defining quality of success of the modern woman untethered from traditional roles and expectations.

***The lasting impact of which I witnessed yesterday. In the grocery store I saw a middle aged woman with a perfect Louise Brooks haircut, and just after dark saw any number of  teen girls dressed as flappers for Halloween.

Or as William Faulkner said once, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

managed ignorance

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Managed Ignorance:

Ignorance has become a feature where it used to be a bug. Formerly it was the job of the media to correct ignorance, insofar as it was possible (and, truthfully, it wasn’t very possible). Now though it’s increasingly the job of the media to manage ignorance. To make a space for the ignorant, and to ensure that those kept in managed ignorance get just enough news, and never more than they need to remain exactly where they are.

We were probably due for some measure of managed ignorance, what with the already stupefying mix of rational ignorance, the cable news cycle, cognitive dissonance, and in-group loyalty that shapes public opinion today. But still, consider: We found WMD in Iraq. We only tortured really, really bad people, we did it only in non-fatal ways, and they provided us worthwhile information. Same-sex marriage is going to force churches to do things they don’t believe in. There will be death panels deciding your grandma’s fate. Climategate destroyed global warming science forever.

All are untrue, but there are those who believe every one of them, and these people’s opinions about where to go from here don’t count any less just because they’re based on untruth. Those who propagate such beliefs know them to be untrue, and they know it’s not worth the average person’s time, cognitive investment, and loss of group loyalty to discover otherwise.


more at link.

This is of course, the insane in the attic infantile sibling of Chomsky’s  Manufacturing Consent.

nikki haley, manizer?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Josh Marshall is coining a new neologism,  “manizer” as a means to describe whats happening to South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley in her run for governor. So far, it seems that several Republican operatives have come out publicly, claiming that they personally, have had sexual affairs with Ms Haley. While this is a common method of ritual defamation – especially of political figures, to be then publicly flogged as a “womanizer”. Usually this is a right wing means to attack the left on moral grounds, but what makes this case especially interesting is that it’s  Republican floggers on Republican flogged sort of affair.

While it makes a certain amount of linguistic sense to legitimize the neologism as simply reversing the gender of “womanize” around to “manize”, in  order to define the new circumstance. But, in this case I have to wonder whether the circumstance itself trumps a simple reversal because it is itself so unique – a series of married, male, and known Republican operatives volunteering confessions of having a sexual affair, without, I may add any sense of being in any way, victimized by the affair. Which is not so far off from a bunch of boys (in the same click) in the high school bathroom inventing sexual encounters in order to ruin some girls reputation in order to banish her from the click. It’s the internal character of this that might have the ability to alter the coinage of the term to mean a manner of infighting, since the players are within the same group as opposed to opposite parties.

Unless of course,  Nikki Haley could be defined as not being a real part of the same group, but as a member of another alien group posing as a member of the group. Like if she were really something like, I dunno, a “fucking raghead” or something. Then sure, the “manizer” label, like the “womanizer” label fits just fine.

the story of foo

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

What This Country Needs Is Foo,

The Eddie DeLange Orchestra, vocals by Elisse Cooper


A while ago, a friend of mine gave me all his dad’s old 78 rpm records and one of them was the above “What This Country Needs Is Foo”. These days the word foo is still floating around in several forms, such as in the rock band Foo Fighters, the expression Foobar (or F.U.B.A.R), or as a term in computer talk to represent a particular part of system – but I had no idea that the word was used clear back in the thirties, and that it evidently was a popular expression.

The word foo apparently originated in the depression era cartoon strip Smokey Stover by Bill Holman. Holman’s cartoons were notable for his predilection for word games, puns, and visual sign gags, and after (so he says) he saw the word FOO signed on the bottom of a Chinese vase, the word became a ubiquitous stand in for other words and inside jokes, such as “many men smoke, but foo man chew”. The above recording from 1938 obviously owes a lot to Holman’s popularization of the term, but the story doesn’t end there because the word FOO marched on past its original novelty, and has expanded itself into a multifaceted signifier – of for the most part, the unknown, the unidentifiable, and/or the the absurd.

After the depression, the word FOO found itself going to war where it was reincarnated in a U.S. Army animated short The Three Brothers where a character named Fubar (brother of Snafu and Tarfu) decrying the ill effects of incompetence on the fighting force. The combination of FOO with the word BAR, or NO FOO started a process whereby FOOBAR became the “backronym”  F.U.B.A.R. or “fucked up beyond all recognition” that is common today. I guess this is a little like the brand FORD being backroynmed into the joke Fix Or Repair Daily.

But that’s not all, because FOO found another application during the war years. Army radar specialists and fans of of the original Holman cartoons, began to use the term FOO to describe images they couldn’t definitely identify on their radar screens as FOO FIGHTERS. Supposedly, these phantom enemy mirages that appeared on radar screens were also often “things” seen by friendly pilots that they themselves couldn’t identify. Most of the descriptions (“bright glowing objects that followed the aircraft, then flew off at astronomical speed”) of what all the pilots were then calling FOO FIGHTERS, matches rather seemlessly with descriptions of what today would be called U.F.O.s.

Funny, how a word – that’s not even in my dictionary – that’s been around for almost 80 years, and assumed the role of a kind of universal signifier of things just out of rational reach like, absurdity, out of control, nonsense, otherworldly, anonymous, U.F.O., or just plain messed up – is a word that itself just can’t quite find it’s way into a state of official legitimacy. So it is then, that FOO has and will, always remain in its own special and exclusive category of FOO. The rare and ubiquitous intimate other.

contrast gainer, the primaries

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

This ones from Billmons old Whiskey Bar, passed to him from the advertising business, but probably originated in the Saul Bellow quote; “But one of them will become what (Saul Bellow) calls the “contrast gainer.” No matter how flawed, uninteresting, and unattractive a couple is, one half of the pair always makes the other look better.”

While this is an old and obvious advertising ploy based on the brand X principal comparison, the recent primary results for both parties are shaping up to be a very positive (at least in the short run) exercise in front of the fall midterm elections. So far on the Democratic senate races, upstart Sestak has beaten Republican anointed Democrat favored Arlin Spector in PA, In KY Jack Conway has defeated Mongiardo, and in AK bluenose Blanch Lincoln has failed to get 50% majority against newbe Halter and so forcing another runoff. On the Republican side,Teabag favorite Rand Paul has won in another slap against the old GOP. What we are seeing is that both parties are feeling the pinch of anti-incumbent anti- establishment candidates that are having the net effect of driving  party affiliations further to the left and further to the right simultaneously. This is all good, in spite of how the DC villagers might want to spin the fake lack of bipartisanship as a descent into inky chaos. Because what it really means is that just maybe, the contrast between the two root ideologies might finally evolve into  clear enough distinctions that choices between the two become stark enough to even wake up, air raid alarm clock style, the soporific masses from their slumber. And the contrasts couldn’t be clearer in troubled times, do we choose the egalitarian left with real policies that offer rational tested solutions, or do we choose the irrational remnants of hysterical hyper-media teabag posturing for a past that never existed. What future would you choose?

malicious compliance

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Got this one from John Cole at Balloon Juice today – and come to think of it ballon juice itself might apply.

From Wikipedia

Malicious compliance is the behavior of a person who intentionally inflicts harm by strictly following the orders of management or following legal compulsions, knowing that compliance with the orders will cause a loss of some form resulting in damage to the manager’s business or reputation, or a loss to an employee or subordinate. In effect, it is a form of sabotage used to harm leadership or used by leadership to harm subordinates.[1]

Work-to-rule is the expression of malicious compliance as an industrial action, in which rules are deliberately followed to the letter in an attempt to reduce employee productivity.

As someone in the comments points out, watch how the police force in Arizona enforces the new law, for an example of how malicious compliance might work – seeing that the chiefs don’t like the law, but the local officers do.

ritual defamation

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Coined by Laird Wilcox in 1990, under the pretext of how values, opinions, and beliefs are controlled in democratic societies – and very, very applicable today:

Defamation is the destruction or attempted destruction of the reputation, status, character or standing in the community of a person or group of persons by unfair, wrongful, or malicious speech or publication. For the purposes of this essay, the central element is defamation in retaliation for the real or imagined attitudes, opinions or beliefs of the victim, with the intention of silencing or neutralizing his or her influence, and/or making an example of them so as to discourage similar independence and “insensitivity” or non-observance of taboos.

Ritual Defamation is not ritualistic because it follows any prescribed religious or mystical doctrine, nor is it embraced in any particular document or scripture. Rather, it is ritualistic because it follows a predictable, stereotyped pattern which embraces a number of elements, as in a ritual.

Edited characteristics:

1) victim must have violated a societal taboo, usually by identifying with a forbidden attitude, opinion or belief.

2)The method of attack is character assassination, not criticism of the particular attitude, opinion, or belief.

3)The goal of ritual defamation is censorship and repression, and not a discussion of the merits of the the beliefs.

4)The target of ritual defamation is someone in the public eye, who is most vulnerable through public exposure.

5)Others are often urged to join in the attack to denounce the offender.

6)The victim must be dehumanized/objectified as being identical with the attitude, opinion, or belief.

7)The victim must suffer from as many parts of society as possible, to make it appear as a threat to the whole community.

8)Ritual defamation is not about being right or wrong on merits, but is perceived to be a failure to observe societal taboos.

The Glenn Becks of the world are the witch doctors of ritual defamation.

epistemic closure

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

I’m going to have to  open a new category called new words/phrases and neologisms. We’ll start this off with this one from Julian Sanchez – Epistemic Closure.

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure.


This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Think of the complete panic China’s rulers feel about any breaks in their Internet firewall: The more successfully external sources of information have been excluded to date, the more unpredictable the effects of a breach become.

So, if “epistemology” is defined as:

The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.
And “closure” is defined as:
1. The act of closing or the state of being closed: closure of an incision.
2. Something that closes or shuts.


a. A bringing to an end; a conclusion: finally brought the project to closure.
b. A feeling of finality or resolution, especially after a traumatic experience
This phrase is a really interesting one. I think it’s safe to say that Sanchez isn’t tying the two meanings together in an effort to purify, reduce, or specifically define epistemology or the project of epistemology. What he does seem to be saying though, is  to imply that conservative thought somehow, rises up to the same ethereal level as the philosophy of knowledge itself. What a joke. Because as he also implies, the big problem with this elevated ethereal conservative philosophy of knowledge, is its propensity to fall victim to the same insular, exclusionary, and paranoid tendencies as the current Chinese State Minister of Information might have.
Nice try though.